Tactics and Tips07/04/2005

When Good Friends Go Bad

It happens in nearly every campaign at some point. The strong warrior, who the rest of the party admires and respects for his ability to dish out the hurt on the PCs' monstrous enemies, who seems unstoppable due to his combat prowess, and whose sword could cleave the party wizard in one hit (and take out the bard with the backswing) -- this ultimate fighting machine hears the DM utter those most frightening of words: "Make a Will save."

In many cases, the fighter becomes incapacitated for some indeterminate time. But in the worst cases, the mighty warrior turns around, focusing his bloodthirsty gaze on his fellow party members. Charm monster, suggestion, confusion, and dominate person can turn the tide of a battle in an instant, and the party must then use its resources to eliminate one of its own. The tips in this article address what you might do in these situations.

Know Your Rights: A charmed character probably wouldn't immediately turn on his former allies. After all, the likely situation in a combat is that the character finds his friends (old and new) fighting amongst each other. A tendency to keep the peace may be in order. A dominated character forced to attack an ally gets a new saving throw (with a +2 bonus) to shake off the effects. If you are confused -- well, then your action is pretty much determined, so you'll have to roll with it (pun intended).

Dealing With Confusion: If a confused party member does turn and attack an ally, the best resolution isn't simply striking back, since attacking a confused creature will result in that creature attacking for the duration of the effect. Depending on the circumstances, it may be wise to simply move away from a confused party member, especially if doing so can make an enemy the nearest target. Tripping, disarming, or grappling a confused PC can also make them less dangerous while not reducing their effectiveness once they get back into the fight. At the higher levels, a healspell can also remove the confusion, and break enchantment can remove the effect without dispel magic's potential of also dispelling all the beneficial spells on the target.

Domination Woes: One of the best spells for counteracting dominate person is protection from evil. It isn't permanent, but it should at least buy you enough time to deal with the source of the dominate person spell. As with confusion, break enchantment and dispel magic work on most cases of domination.

Knock Him Out: You may have to knock out a party member, and hopefully you don't mind taking the time to heal him back up later. In these cases, it may be best to land one or two solid nonlethal attacks first, but such attacks impart a -4 penalty on attack rolls with most weapons. As a result, after a few hits, you might as well start in with the lethal damage. Doing so avoids the attack penalty, which means you'll take him out more quickly. Of course, a flanking rogue with a sap or a monk dealing nonlethal damage with unarmed strikes doesn't need to hold back at all, but, as it turns out, an even mix of nonlethal and regular damage may result in the quickest recovery. As noted on page 146 of the Player's Handbook,cure spells heal just as much nonlethal damage as normal damage (see Healing Nonlethal Damage), and so the unconscious friend can be made ready in half the time (once his head clears, of course).

Eliminate the Source. Once the symptoms have been handled (and sometimes before), either by incapacitating the affected PC(s) or removing the effect entirely, you should act fast to defeat the source of the magical effects. A cleric or wizard opponent might not have the same spell prepared, but an illithid can use charm monster or suggestion at will, and a sorcerer has no reason to stop casting a spell that works. Against the constant, save-each-round confusing gaze of the umber hulk or the dominating gaze of the vampire, averting (or even closing) your eyes might be the best approach to take while taking the battle to the creature, but it also decreases the rate at which you might deal damage.

Run Away: Sometimes running is the best option. You may have to deal with both a formidable foe as well as a dominated ally, and by retreating you could attempt to separate the two and deal with each individually.

Have a Plan: A party can be prepared for the eventuality of fighting its weakest-willed members, with a simple agreement among the PCs regarding the actions to take. Sometimes the confusion effect causes more confusion in a party, beyond the affected PC. Having a plan for these effects helps to contain the potential damage, and it helps your party survive.

Additional Reading: Check out Jason Nelson-Brown's "Save My Game" series, which addresses some further issues, such as character death.

Until next time!

Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual, Player's Handbook.

About the Author

Stephen Schubert, formerly a minion of a large computer services company, has written for Dragon Magazine, Star Wars Gamer, and the Wizards of the Coast website. He now works as a developer for roleplaying games and miniatures at Wizards of the Coast, and he has been involved in many products on the 2005 schedule.

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